Flights of Faith

Thursday, August 02, 2007

That Friend

I am an optimist because I'm alive - James Baldwin

I've been thinking of collectives recently. A band of people. A crew. More and more my friends are being defined by their activism and their faith. I have few friends who do not fall in that category. Even those friends are works in progress with regards to caring about justice. My mind has been resting on my post-college crew though andthe diversity it might hold, especially among Christians.

It's strange. Before Yale, my identities were a smart kid, a strong Christian, and an undefined blackness (my community's assumption of undefined, not mine; yet, I have to admit it wasn't crystal clear yet). And a bit of a fanboy, I guess (Disney, Star Wars, Pokemon.)

Now, my identities are similar but incredibly empowered through my experiences. A strong Christian who believes his faith has a plan for this world (not simply his own life). An activist who believes that love and compassion through justice is the only way we can reform our country and this world. A black man who uses his place as a marginalized and often oppressed citizen to witness other injustices from other identities and to encourage a collective rise that keeps a hold of everyone as we stand in solidarity for communal justice. A writer whose words have gained a potency and continue to develop. And still a man who is passionate about what he loves and links his interests and favorite things to his other main identities.

In non-Christian circles, I'm usually defined as a Christian activist. In Christian circles, an advocate of social justice. Non-white Christians would probably include racial justice too, possibly not seeing the connection between social or racial or simply wanting to stress my passion for that strand of my work. It's interesting how blackness sorts of fade away in interpersonal relationships when you live it out seeking justice in its name. I think externally it's definitely there. As my TA called me, a "super black man" identity is still a reality. Friendships lose the distinction though because one has most likely given a reason for the non-black person to care about blackness as a social justice issue providing them a space for that identity. It avoids the stiff arm that keeps them away from true reconciliation, yet forced to care superficially as to not earn a "racist" label.

I don't know though. I sorta dislike being "that friend." Nowadays, this means Christian or activist. Admittedly, I do this too. I have a few friends heavily into music and I hope to make more after college since my wannabe DJ days are through. I tune the dial and just look for a strong beat or melody that doesn't perpetuate some form of injustice. Usually, that leaves me with slim pickings in the mainstream music department and resorting to middle aged approved oldies like Luther, Stevie, etc. Not a bad place to be at all. But being someone whose ears love funk and some electronica and British two step, I miss the complexity of non-traditional arrangement. Anyway, my friends sometimes deliver me from that static life by recommending new artists. While all these friendships are too rich to become "the music friend," I could see it happening easily. I see their world through music since it is a major component to their livelihood. I guess this is the place I'm ok with my faith being in terms of an identity for others to see. If you wanna get in it, I am definitely gonna welcome you like all my other identities. If not though, I just ask you respect is as my worldview and acknowledge it is as my truth if that need arises. Once that is put in place, then you can try to interpret my truth, make me change it, critique it, etc. You just gotta set it up first.

Activism, however, is a bit different. Being "that activist" friend can be a bit of an annoyance. Honestly, I don't know how my vegan and vegetarian friends put up with me since I guess I fall prey to my own critique in that case. I just need you to be an activist in your own way too, ya know? I don't expect anyone to join the causes I support but I sorta need a willingness to respect them and, at least, not tear them down with words or behavior. Maybe this is picky, or rude, or insensitive. But it's not like we won't lay down a bridge for us to cross together.

It's sorta like when a Christian aware of my passion for social justice said to me during a goodbye, "Good luck saving the world!" And I said, "Thanks. Let's save it together." She politely shook her head and said, "No. I'll sit this one out." Besides "this one" meaning a LIFE she only has ONE shot at, I was really struck by how happily she could dismiss everything I presented in myself. It just feels strange, ya know? I guess since I present my passion for social justice like an everyday passion for art or music (a good thing, I think) I guess results that follow that pattern accordingly. No use getting bitter. Just an interesting thing I've noticed since building social justice and activism into my identity.

I guess it's no different from people asking Yalies heading to dinner to help stop genocide in Darfur and getting shut down when someone says they're too busy.

Just feels weird on the other side because we're asked to be ok with their response.
I don't want to make that normal.
Looks like I'll have to find another way to achieve that.


Blogger Ma-keu said...

"Good luck saving the world!"

hate that. hate that.

but even worse is how many people have made comments about me "saving" prostitutes, leaving me to go on a tirade about how I'm not "saving" anyone, only helping.

11:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From a brotha in both the racial and Christian sense, I find this wonderful to read and uplifting to my own conviction to remain steadfast in my faith.

Keep it gully,

12:33 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home